The Early Word on 4G

Carl Weinschenk

Carl Weinschenk spoke with Milt Ellis, vice president and senior consultant, Technology Research Practice, for Harris Interactive. Ellis participated in a study of consumer opinions about 4G that was released last month.


Weinschenk: Your research focused on consumers. Is there any way in which it is relevant for businesses?
Ellis: There are things that came up with consumers that I think will carry over. The people that responded said that 3 percent of them would use 4G for business purposes and 24 percent equally for business and personal use. So 27 percent have business floating around in their minds. ... So you have to think that some of the responses would also play into business areas. How much, I don't really know. The top four concerns are: The possibilities of paying a higher price to one provider. The second is quality of service, the possibility that if you go with one provider they may not have the QoS that they advertise. The third one, which still comes up to this day, is that some people just don't feel wireless is as reliable as land lines. That's interesting. Technology fluctuations - i.e., reliability in a thunderstorm - actually take a second seat to cost and QoS. Privacy concerns come up a lot. Most enterprises are concerned about security when it comes to mobility.


Weinschenk: How do the launch numbers look for 4G in the consumer and business segments?
Ellis: Generally, what we are saying is that at launch it is a small number. ... [Many people] wait for existing contracts to expire, others wait to get it until it's proven. That could be a few years. Businesses are driven to be much more competitive. In some of our VoIP work, for instance, it has been shown businesses have a quicker adoption [rate] than consumers. Businesses have a profit motive. Anything that can give them a competitive advantage is something that they look at.


Weinschenk: Who will be the leading providers?
Ellis: It was interesting that apparently wireless telephone providers - the ones who have mobility strategies rolling out - are not number one. They say an ISP is preferred. Major technology companies such as a Google or a Microsoft took second place. The satisfaction level lies around third or fourth for the cell phone companies. It's interesting that the satellite television folks have a high satisfaction level, but when it comes to 4G, they trail the other providers. They are pretty much last in the list. Wireless companies are in a three-way battle with traditional landline [companies] and cable television. GPS-type services [could be an enterprise driver]. More and more companies require fleet management. They are thinking about things such as RFIDs and GPS-type services. We see these rising up in what people really are interested in even today, and [also] what they are looking forward to with 4G. If you have performance on the network - the ability to get data to the device and back - certainly that helps.

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